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The Olympics and Great Power Politics

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The Olympics have finally concluded. These 2012 London Olympics will be remembered in many ways: NBC’s recorded coverage, Michael Phelps, Gabby’s 10,000 watt smile, 100 foot tall Valdemort, Usain Bolt, and British rock band after British rock band performing with strange props. It was an inspiring couple of weeks and I enjoyed watching these amazing athletes do amazing things. As a proud American, I also took joy in watching my country win the medal account yet again. A country’s performance at the Olympics does not always mean that it has reached success at more meaningful metrics of well being and power (economic growth, employment, health, safety), but the two are not mutually exclusive. Creating and sustaining world class athletes takes resources and a culture that promotes competitiveness. The Olympics’ wide variety of events, from ping pong to weightlifting, also allows a country to showcase its diversity.

The Olympics provides a peaceful venue for the world’s great and not so great powers to put to the test their national resources, culture, and diversity. Though the Olympic spirit of goodwill is strong, each country desires to show themselves well. In the case of the United States and China, though not as intense as the Cold War battles between Russia and America, the fight for eminence is strong. Can we view the results of this latest Olympics in the prism of great power competition? Of course we can! Will Inboden of Shadow Government does a service in ranking the top medal winners of 2012 along with their nominal GDP and defense budget size to give a high level view of current status of today’s great powers. Here’s his list:

Country 2012 Medal Rank GDP rank Defense budget rank

USA 1 1 1

China 2 2 2

Russia 3 9 3

United Kingdom 4 7 4

Germany 5 4 9

Japan 6 3 6

Australia 7 13 13

France 8 5 5

South Korea 9 15 12

Italy 10 8 11

India 37 11 8

Brazil 16 6 10

My takeaways:

- China and United States are in a fierce battle for Olympic and world power. This is not a hot conflict, but it is a cold one, with each side trying their best to top the other.

- Russia has a million problems, but her competitive spirit and commitment to invest resources on their athletic programs still keeps her at a high level not only at the Olympics, but in the game of thrones that is great power politics.

- The sun may have set on the British Empire always, but it is still a vibrant nation with great rock bands.

- Japan & Germany: What can you say, near the top as always.

- India & Brazil: Two rising powers that still have a ways to go to reach the status of the big boys. Brazil had a nice showing at the Olympics and as host to the 2016 games will have their chance to show their growth and prosperity very shortly. In regards to India, which only received 6 medals (1 gold), I asked an Indian friend why his home country fared so poorly. He replied, ‘Unless its cricket, we don’t care’.

I can sympathize. Where was the baseball?!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Top 5. I hope you enjoy these articles as much as I did.

1. ‘America’s ‘Oh Sh*t!‘ Moment’, Niall Ferguson, The Daily Beast

Niall Ferguson’s diagonsis of what ails America and how it can be repaired and our nation reinvigorated.

In my view, civilizations don’t rise, fall, and then gently decline, as inevitably and predictably as the four seasons or the seven ages of man. History isn’t one smooth, parabolic curve after another. Its shape is more like an exponentially steepening slope that quite suddenly drops off like a cliff.

2. ‘The Wonk Who Slays Washington‘, Peter J. Boyer, The Daily Beast

A thoughtful review of Peter Schweizer’s book Throw Them All Out which brings to light all the greed and crony capitalism of our nation’s capitol.

Washington does seem to live by its own laws of economics. The D.C. metro area has displaced Silicon Valley as home of the highest median income, at $84,523 last year (compared with the national average of $50,046). Earlier this month, a Roll Call study of congressional financial disclosures revealed that the net worth of members of Congress had grown by 25 percent since 2008, during a period in which the average American household has lost as much as 20 percent of its net worth.

3. ‘What You Don’t Often Hear About Those ‘Greedy‘ One Percenters’, John Tamney, Forbes

Darn those 1% and all their hard work, ingenuity, smarts, generosity, and job creating filth!

Readers of the above doubtless sense a rhyme to Rockefeller’s early history with that of the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. As Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson recounts in his book about the man, Jobs arrived at Atari’s offices early in his career and told those willing to see him that he would not leave the premises without a job offer. Having written a major bestseller that was more recently turned into a blockbuster film, Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, is firmly ensconced now inside the top 1 percent. What’s perhaps less well known is how many years it took Stockett to write her book, not to mention the 60+ rejection letters she received from agents before finding one willing to take her vision to publishers.

1 percenters generally have the nerve, drive and self-assurance that the rest of us could only dream of. We see where they are or were, but what the envious among us never consider is what they did to get there.

4. ‘The India-China Rivalry‘, Robert D. Kaplan, Stratfor

Kaplan is almost always worth reading and this succinct analysis of the current state of Indian-Chinese affairs is no different:

This is a rivalry born completely of high-tech geopolitics, creating a core dichotomy between two powers whose own geographical expansion patterns throughout history have rarely overlapped or interacted with each other. Despite the limited war fought between the two countries on their Himalayan border 50 years ago, this competition has relatively little long-standing historical or ethnic animosity behind it.

5. ‘On Tyranny and Liberty: Would the Founders approve of the nation we’ve made?‘, Myron Magnet, City Journal

I’ll end with this powerful recap American ideals and how they are being challenged like never before today.

When we ask how our current political state of affairs measures up to the Founders’ standard, we usually find ourselves discussing whether a given law or program is constitutional, and soon enough get tangled in precedents and lawyerly rigmarole. But let’s frame the question a little differently: How far does present-day America meet the Founders’ ideal of free government, protecting individual liberty while avoiding what they considered tyranny?…

One of the greatest dramas of President Washington’s first term was the showdown between House of Representatives leader James Madison and Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton over how to interpret the Constitution of which Madison was the moving spirit, and which he and Hamilton had defended and explicated together in The Federalist. Hamilton wanted the government to charter a national bank; Madison argued that doing so would be unconstitutional because chartering a bank was not one of the limited and enumerated powers given to the federal government. It was no good, he said, for Hamilton to claim that the Constitution’s clause empowering Congress to make any law “necessary and proper” for carrying out its enumerated powers would permit it to charter the bank, since a bank wasn’t “necessary” but merely “convenient.” Once you start saying that the Constitution’s “necessary and proper” clause, or commerce clause, or clause to provide for the general welfare gives Congress implied powers, you are setting off on a course that will in the end “pervert the limited government of the Union, into a government of unlimited discretion, contrary to the will and subversive of the authority of the people.”

Any recommendations of your own?


US-India: Going Steady

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Like after a good first date, expectations can get a little out of hand when it comes burgeoning alliances between states. In the late 90′s relations between the US and India began to thaw (agreed to date), through the 2000s, as the two sides’ interests began to mold so did their relationship (going steady), and finally in 2008, the nuclear partnership deal seemed to cement the emerging alliance (marriage). Though this partnership is still in its early stages, there are some smart folks wondering if the alliance might be in trouble or actually overrated from the beginning.

For those who thought India-US was going to be another Special Relationship this may be accurate. India and US have much in common and the geopolitics of the 21st century appears to be putting them on the side of the key international shift of our time, China’s rise. However, this does not make the US and India best friends. They each have diverging interests (Iran, Pakistan), unique cultures, and domestic politics that will likely keep the two from ever crossing the threshold. That being said, I disagree with those seeing a serious drift in the young alliance. After all, look how far the two sides have come in 20 years. Daniel Twining provides some much needed historical context:

Recall the context in which U.S. and Indian officials, nearly 15 years ago, sought to forge a new relationship. For half a century, the American and Indian governments were alienated by India’s refusal to sign on as one of Washington’s Cold War allies; by the U.S. military alliance with Indian rival Pakistan, forged in 1954; and later by America’s tacit alliance with Indian rival China, countered by India’s tacit alliance with Moscow. Following wars with both Pakistan and China, India launched a covert nuclear weapons program, leading the United States to muster its allies to impose sweeping sanctions on technology trade with India — further stifling its development after state socialism had already undercut India’s growth potential. Even after the Cold War, Washington and New Delhi spent the 1990s feuding over proliferation, culminating in the imposition of even more U.S. sanctions following India’s 1998 nuclear weapons test.

Those who know their Cold War history know that India was no friend to the US. From India’s perspective, the US for decades had put their support toward their greatest rival Pakistan. The positive steps taken by the US and India in the past decade or so need to be given space to breath. China is not going anywhere and neither are the strong democratic elements that bring New Delhi and Washington together. I’m confident that this alliance is still on the upswing, it just needs patience and consistent efforts from both sides to embolden the ties and interests that bind them. The US and India are in the early stages of going steady, and that’s not a bad place right now. As the not so distant past shows, it has been a lot worse.


American Dynamism Vs. Chinese Statism

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One does not have to look hard to find publications or experts pronouncing or describing an America in decline. They have now become ubiquitous and in many circles pass for the conventional wisdom of the day. In a similar vein, it is not that hard to find arguments that other countries, particularly China, have a more efficient, productive economy and government. Living in California, I’ve heard many unfavorable comparisons to our attempt at building a high speed train to China’s already extensive train network. While, I understand the United States faces deep fiscal issues; and our current political class appears incapable or unwilling (both?) to tackle them, I am still an optimist about my country. After all, the US is not alone in facing headwinds to a prosperous future. We cannot judge ourselves accurately without looking more closely at our peers, with China being the most obvious target. Analyst Ian Bremmer makes a strong attempt at this and finds that China’s very system has plenty of warts:

China has indeed grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. That’s a huge credit to a country that has modernized and industrialized on a previously unseen scale. And because of its 1.3 billion citizens, China has quite a bit of growth (read: catching up) still to come. China’s style of governance leaves the country light on regulation. However, it’s also light on rule of law, transparency, freedom of speech and several other key features that make the U.S. economy go ’round. Just because the Chinese government can move a village and build a road without holding a single hearing doesn’t mean the free market has taken hold. Indeed, it shows the opposite: China’s economy is largely state-planned, state-owned and state-run. The government uses capitalism only as a tool to reach its ends, not as a true expression of a free market.

Bremmer is right. China can indeed get many things done, but all of these accomplishments come from a centrally planned government, not a dynamic society or economy. The human race has yet to create an omnipotent, all-wise group of men and women that can lead a society to ever growing levels of prosperity. Economic growth cannot just be planned, as the market contains too many forces coming from too many different directions. The Chinese have opened up portions of their economy to the ‘animal spirits’ of capitalism, but as Bremmer points out, this is not really as it seems. There is no such thing a free market in modern China:

where the Chinese government compromises the free market, it does so to fulfill its own desires of effective control over the entire country. It’s capitalism of the state, by the state and for the state, where the state is the principal economic actor. That’s in marked contrast to where the U.S. compromises on “pure” capitalism, adding things like the social safety net, worker safety, product safety, health insurance and retirement planning.

One of the major problems China has had with its economic model is that at nearly any time, the majority owner of most of its economy — the state — can jump into an enterprise and distort it for its own purposes. It can cook the books, it can pull out profits, it can hide losses, it can launder money and it can even shut down a company altogether.

The United States has its challenges. At times, I have strong feelings of doubt that we can get ourselves back on track. Back to being a nation built on rugged individualism that produces dynamic outcomes. It is impossible for me to imagine an Apple being created in Beijing, but I would not be surprised to see a similar story (Pomegranate?) arise in the US. American culture isn’t without flaws and embarrassments, but no other on earth has proven to be so productive and resolute. It just keeps on ticking and with it American power and influence.


Robert Kagan: The World America Made Video

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Foreign policy scholar Robert Kagan has a new book, The World America Made, and surprise, surprise he’s out on the speech circuit promoting it. Below is a video of Mr. Kagan being interviewed by David Gregory of Meet the Press and semi-debated by New York Times columnist David Brooks:

Kagan, like another historian/foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Mead who I admire, is an optimist when it comes to the United States hanging on to its position as the leader of liberal, free market world order. Though Kagan does come at his optimism from a sober, realist vantage point. For instance, he argues, that sure the US faces a partisan political environment that seems incapable of finding solutions to difficult problems, but to Kagan this is ‘what’s new!’ And he has a strong point as American history is full of partisan bickering over what now seem like slam dunk policy decisions and strategic visions. I’ve read all of Kagan’s previous major works, with Dangerous Nation and Of Paradise and Power truly masterful works, and I look forward to reading and reviewing his latest.

I saw these two reports within a few minutes of each other and the contrast wasn’t exactly hard to see. The first piece detailed China’s rapidly increasing military spending:

China’s defense budget will double by 2015, making it more than the rest of the Asia Pacific region’s combined, according to a report from IHS Jane’s, a global think tank specializing in security issues.

Beijing’s military spending will reach $238.2 billion in 2015, compared with $232.5 billion for rest of the region, according to the report. That would also be almost four times the expected defense budget of Japan, the next biggest in the region, in 2015, the report said.

And then after just a wee bit more web surfing, I came across this report from the US Military Times:

The Pentagon’s base budget will fall for the first time in more than a decade, slipping less than 1 percent to $525.4 billion from last year’s $530.6 billion. When adjusted for inflation, 2013 would mark the third consecutive year the budget has fallen, officials said…New hardware is taking the biggest hit in the new budget proposal, including proposed delays in the purchase of new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and new Navy ships and ending the Air Force’s unmanned Global Hawk program…

I understand that even with a large expansion by the Chinese military and a slight decline in American defense spending the discrepancy between the two is still substantial. But one can’t help but notice a significant transition occurring in these, more and more uncommon, headlines. The United States is now cutting defense spending while Beijing is most definitely increasing theirs. The Military Times article tries to put the decrease in American spending in historical perspective:

[Pentagon’s comptroller Robert] Hale compared the current plans to other post-war periods including the years following the Vietnam War in the 1970s and the aftermath of the Cold War in the 1990s. “They are not that different than past postwar drawdowns,” Hale said.

It is true that much of the decrease in spending comes from the Iraq and Afghanistan drawdowns, but Comptroller Hale does not know the near future and what challenges our military will have to meet. We keep hearing about how are military is not really getting smaller, but just moving to a new, more important location, East Asia. But at the same time it seems like we are closer than we have been since President Obama was elected to being engaged in a hot war against Iran. And then there is Syria, where there are reports that the US is planning an aerial blockade. The Iraq war has ended, at least for the US, and the Obama administration has sent strong signals that the US led NATO alliance in Afghanistan will be gone by 2014 (maybe even sooner), but future conflicts, which of course would demand billions of federal dollars, can be seen without much imagination.

These two reports show that hard bottom lines still remain: The coming US deficit crisis demands major changes to its spending/taxing policies, with defense spending so far taking the biggest hit, and the Chinese, though with some rough financial waters likely headed their way, will continue to build up their military capabilities. And if you think things are getting serious right now….

The proposal does not take into consideration the law that may result in an additional $500 billion in cuts that would begin next year if lawmakers fail to reach a broader agreement to reduce federal spending and the national deficit. Hale said those cuts, known as budget sequestration, would amount to a “meat ax” approach.

If you are one of the few to hold a high place in the Chinese Communist Party life has to be good. You are running one of the world’s greatest powers and you don’t have to worry about elections next Fall, or the next Fall, or the…However, there is one major hangup to being part of the leadership of a Communist country: living a publicly austere and modest life. And not just you, but also your family and heirs. This last part is bubbling up some problems according to Jeremy Page recent piece on China’s ‘Princelings’:

One evening early this year, a red Ferrari pulled up at the U.S.
ambassador’s residence in Beijing, and the son of one of China’s top
leaders stepped out, dressed in a tuxedo. Bo Guagua, 23, was expected.
He had a dinner appointment with a daughter of the then-ambassador,
Jon Huntsman.

The car, though, was a surprise. The driver’s father, Bo Xilai, was in
the midst of a controversial campaign to revive the spirit of Mao
Zedong through mass renditions of old revolutionary anthems, known as
“red singing.” He had ordered students and officials to work stints on
farms to reconnect with the countryside. His son, meanwhile, was
driving a car worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and as red as the
Chinese flag, in a country where the average household income last
year was about $3,300.

The episode, related by several people familiar with it, is
symptomatic of a challenge facing the Chinese Communist Party as it
tries to maintain its legitimacy in an increasingly diverse,
well-informed and demanding society. The offspring of party leaders,
often called “princelings,” are becoming more conspicuous, through
both their expanding business interests and their evident appetite for
luxury, at a time when public anger is rising over reports of official
corruption and abuse of power.

These are high stakes for CCP. The CCP has largely traded their governing legitimacy from creating an egalitarian, communal society to one of promoting growth, growth, growth, but this does not mean that they have completely abandon the former. Having silver spoon fed young adults running around flaunting their connections and the financial and societal benefits it has brought them can create a backlash. The fact that the incoming CCP leadership will have only tangential ties to Mao’s revolutionaries of the recent past puts even more spotlight on these new leaders. Page details how the current CCP leaders are aware of the dangers these Princelings’ behavior may bring:

State-controlled media portray China’s leaders as living by the
austere Communist values they publicly espouse. But as scions of the
political aristocracy carve out lucrative roles in business and
embrace the trappings of wealth, their increasingly high profile is
raising uncomfortable questions for a party that justifies its
monopoly on power by pointing to its origins as a movement of workers
and peasants.

Definitely a story worth following…

Here are this week’s Top 5:

1. American’s Desire for Earned Success – Pollster and pundit Michael Barone pontificates on why Democrats’ plans for winning over the majority of Americans – by buying them off with entitlements and benefits – isn’t working:

Why aren’t voters moving to the left, toward parties favoring bigger government, during what increasingly looks like an economic depression?…

I think the larger mistake the Obama Democrats have made is that they suppose ordinary voters want government to channel more money in their direction.

But ordinary Americans don’t want money as much as they want honor. They want what the chance to achieve what American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks calls “earned success.

2. Wisconsin Recall Elections Bring Disappointment to Unions – As expected by political insiders, last Tuesday’s recall elections involving six Republican state senators yielded only two new Democrats, falling one shy of what was needed to turn the State Senate. This affirms the voters’ general support for how things are going in the state. It also comports with the good news coming out of Wisconsin in the last few months showing the positive effects of Governor Walker’s collective bargaining law – cities able to re-negotiate with unions and save their budgets from a lot of red ink:

Someone has to be pretty deep in the Land of Denial to spin the Wisconsin recall elections as good news for Democrats. But the Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas rose to the occasion yesterday.

Republicans managed to keep four of the six seats that Democrats and their public union allies had targeted for recall, thwarting Democratic plans to wrest control of the state legislature from GOP hands. Of the two seats that Republicans lost, one was in a solidly Democratic district that a Republican happened to hold only due to a fluke of nature, David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner notes. And the second was held by an alleged adulterer whose wife revealed that he had moved outside his district to live with his young lover.

3. Getting Serious with the Super Committee – The Super Committee was chosen this week by the respective Congressional leaders and the positioning has already begun over spending cuts, defense cuts, new tax revenues and entitlement changes. But like we saw with the previous budget deals, there seems to be little willingness to make structural or permanent changes. Yet a cursory review of current programs with the question in mind – do they serve a valuable purpose – could go a long way toward debt reduction:

But what many of these media accounts will inevitably fail to do is ask fundamental questions about these programs: What were they designed to do? And is there any evidence they accomplish their purpose? Those questions are significant because much of discretionary spending that our government introduces is speculative in nature. That is, there is little or no evidence when we begin this spending that the money will actually accomplish what we want it to. That’s why we wind up funding anti-poverty programs that don’t reduce poverty, and job training initiatives that don’t get people jobs. We justify tax expenditures to make homes more affordable or to reduce our energy dependence, when there’s little evidence they accomplish either. And yet, once begun, we often can’t get rid of this spending, even when the evidence against its effectiveness is substantial.

4. Britain is in Disarray – Despite the hullabaloo caused by S&P’s downgrade of the U.S., this last week saw even more turmoil in the European economies and even violence in Britain:

The British state is morbidly obese. For a third consecutive year, government will spend more than half the gross domestic product — partly because half of all jobs created during the 13 years of Labor Party governance that ended in May 2010 were in the public sector.

Britain’s debt, now 62 percent of GDP, is scheduled to rise to 71 percent in 2013-14 before declining. Government devours 47 percent of national income.

The five-year goal of reducing it to 40 percent will be difficult because Cameron has a tepid mandate. In 2010, Conservatives almost suffered a fourth consecutive defeat, and they failed to win a majority against an exhausted and unpopular Labor government.

5. Are US-Sino Relations Destined to Fall Apart - As the U.S. economy continues to stumble, questions and fears continue over the Chinese and their long-term desires. The relationship is made even more tense by the Chinese military buildup as evidenced by their first naval battleship completed this week. What some are arguing is a serious focus on improving and maintaining better relations with the Chinese:

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed the importance of improving Sino-US military relations.

Mullen acknowledged that PLA-Pentagon ties have frequently been characterized by ‘misunderstanding and suspicion,’ and complained that Beijing continues to employ bilateral defence ties as ‘a sort of thermostat to communicate displeasure. When they don’t like something we do, they cut off ties. That can’t be the model anymore.’

American and European financies are in a real bind.

American and European financies are in a real bind.

With America’s latest market crash, the debt debate seems so ‘last week’ (hey, it was last week!), there is still much to learn from the tumultuous process. Niall Ferguson attempts to provide an outside perspective on the whole debt limit battle. It’s a pretty important outside perspective too; China:

Viewed from Beijing, it looked very different. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine what more we could have done to vindicate the Chinese Communist Party’s position that Western democracy is a form of institutionalized chaos to be avoided by all sane Asians….

The antics of American legislators take on a new significance when you realize how our leading creditor interprets them. As Beijing sees it, the last three months have furnished ample evidence that—regardless of what the American rating agencies may say—the United States is no longer creditworthy. Even if Congress has pulled back from the brink of outright default, many in China view the debt deal as at best a temporary fix. As the Xinhua News Agency put it, the 11th-hour deal has “failed to defuse Washington’s debt bomb for good, only delaying an immediate detonation by making the fuse an inch longer.” Meanwhile, the unspoken intention of the Federal Reserve is to debase the dollar through “quantitative easing,” which translates into Mandarin as “printing money.”

We all know that China is not just a spectator in America’s budget battles, but a key constituency. Ferguson details China’s skin in our game:

According to official figures, mainland China holds $1.1 trillion in U.S.-government debt instruments. But it’s an open secret that the Chinese authorities also like to buy Treasuries via intermediaries in London, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. Add the U.K. and Hong Kong figures and the total is closer to $1.6 trillion—about 17 percent of the federal debt in public hands. And if you include nongovernmental securities held in China’s international reserves, the U.S. debt to China rises to more than $2 trillion.

In that math one can see a rising power. In this math, provided by Robert Samuelson, can be seen a troubled, possibly falling power:

Europe represents about one-fifth of the world economy and buys about a quarter of American exports. While Europe’s debt crisis was confined to a few small countries, they could be rescued; other European countries supplied loans to substitute for the credit denied by private lending markets. In 2010, Greek, Irish and Portuguese government debt totaled about 640 billion euros (about $910 billion), less than 7 percent of the 9.8 trillion euros of debt of all members of the European Union.

With Spain, Italy and possibly France now under financial assault, the situation changes dramatically. There are more debtor nations and more debt at risk. In 2010, Italy’s debt was 1.8 trillion euros; Spain’s 639 billion euros; and France’s 1.6 trillion euros. But there are fewer countries that can support a rescue; and some of them have heavy debts. Even Germany’s ratio of debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of debt in relation to its economy, was a hefty 83 percent last year, similar to France’s. (The big difference between France and Germany is that Germany’s economy is growing faster.)

The United States and most of Europe’s finances are hemorrhaging and both are showing rather pathetic attempts to get their houses in order. Unless their trajectories change quickly, they, particularly Europe, may be forced to answer a final question, posed by Samuelson, in the affirmative:

Would China contemplate bailing out Europe? If it did, there would be a stunning transfer of geopolitical power and prestige to China.

1. ‘Obama’s Approach Is Not How to ‘Live Within Our Means’ – Jeffrey Anderson, The Weekly Standard

This piece is a friendly reminder that President Obama’s recent talk of cutting spending and decreasing our nation’s debt is large departure from his policies and very recent past priorities. President Obamas’s budget for 2011 (rejected in the Senate 97-0 and the last time he actually put his plan down on paper for judgement) showed his true colors; Ever increasing government spending and deficits that grow and grow:

But even if our levels of taxation had stayed at that postwar high of 20.6 percent, that wouldn’t have come anywhere near covering Obama’s unprecedented appetite for spending. Obama’s budget calls for spending an average of 24 percent of GDP across ten years. Pre-Obama, the last time the federal government spent 24 percent of GDP was during World War II (see table 1.3).

Obama disingenuously suggests that if he had been faced with a surplus in 2000, he would have used it to help pay off the debt. Yet three straight $1 trillion-plus deficits haven’t lessoned his appetite for “investments” (particularly in Obamacare, fast trains, and “green energy”), nor his desire to borrow another $2.4 trillion for the next year and a half.

In addition, Obama once again falsely implied that he somehow has a plan to reduce deficit spending by $4 trillion. That’s a phantom $4 trillion from a phantom plan. The only real plan Obama has put forward is his budget, and deficit spending under his budget would be $1 billion a day higher than under the Paul Ryan-authored House budget. In all, Obama’s 10-year budget calls for raising our national debt to a staggering $27.6 trillion — from $14.5 trillion today and $9.986 trillion shortly after he was elected.

2. ‘China’s Military Flexes Its Muscle – Tom Vanden Brook and Calum MacLeod, USA Today

A medium-length article detailing some of the latest developments of the Chinese military and how the US military is reacting to them:

The United States has far more ships and warplanes worldwide, but in just two decades China has created the largest force of submarines and amphibious warfare ships in Asia. Its air force has added hundreds of fighter jets comparable to U.S. F-15s and F-16s. This year China’s military announced it had successfully tested a military fighter jet — the J-20 — that based on video appears to have radar-evading stealth characteristics.

China also announced it is about to launch its first aircraft carrier and is developing an anti-ship missile that can strike from 900 miles away, according to the Pentagon report.

3. ‘If a Law Doesn’t Work, Waive It Away?‘ – John E. Sununu, The Boston Globe

Former Senator John Sununu lucidly explains how the Obamacare waiver campaign showcases the Health Care Reform law’s haphazard and reckless nature. It may not seem like much to ask, but I would like our democratically elected leaders to know what is in a law before they pass it and force us citizens to live under its yoke:

HHS began shutting down the waiver program – an action it announced on a Friday afternoon, the customary way to bury bad news in Washington. Companies now face a September deadline to apply for protection. After that, they’re out of luck. According to the administration, without the special treatment, health care premiums for 3 million workers would have gone up by 10 percent or more. A note to social engineers of all parties: If you have to protect 3 million people from a brand-new law, it probably wasn’t very well written in the first place.

That this was an unintended consequence is clear from the fact that the law never contemplated a need for waivers in the first place. In a stroke of bureaucratic magic, HHS simply granted itself the power, and started dispensing the passes. Only when independent groups started pressing for transparency did things begin to shut down.

The broader lesson here is that the constant need for special waivers is symptomatic of poorly written public policy. It’s a signal that the cost of compliance is unreasonably high; the benefits are hard to measure; and either legislators or regulators have failed to do their homework.

4. ‘The Independent Payment Advisory Board Could Be Obama’s Achilles’ Heel – Doug Scheon, Huffington Post

Speaking of Obamacare failures and unintended consequences, even the Huffington Post has come out against the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which empowers unelected bureaucrats to determine medicare coverage:

For conservatives, Independents and a growing number of Democrats, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) that was created with the passage of last year’s health care law represents the worst of health care reform. IPAB would allow an unelected board to singularly enact spending cuts in the Medicare program through binding recommendations to reduce Medicare spending.

Last weekend, Reps. Tim Bishop of New York and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas were the latest Democrats to join the increasing bipartisan effort that opposes IPAB as they signed on as co-sponsors of Rep. Phil Roe’s bill to repeal it. Quite simply, IPAB has so many opponents because it embodies centralized planning from Washington, D.C., and enables unelected bureaucrats to make decisions about people’s health care. The contrast couldn’t be more clear: a new government body (IPAB) charged with taking resources away from the beloved Medicare program.

5. ‘Why Is the Left So Frustrated with Obama? – Jay Cost, The Weekly Standard

For many conservatives, it is difficult to understand that many liberals are unhappy with President Obama. Leave it to the always enlightening Jay Cost to explain why many liberals have good reasons to be upset with the man they held such hope for:

Between 1968 and 2004 liberals did not win a single presidential election. Republicans won seven of the ten elections held during this period, and Southern, moderate Democrats won the other three. Worse for liberals, both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton regularly governed without much regard for the liberal flank of their own party – as can be seen in Carter’s opposition to a universal health care bill sponsored by Ted Kennedy, and Bill Clinton agreeing to NAFTA, a balanced budget, and welfare reform…

Then along comes Barack Obama, an extremely appealing candidate for liberals. For starters, his background as a state senator in Hyde Park indicated pretty clearly that he was on the left-hand side of his party. Yet at the same time Obama proved himself extremely adept at avoiding the kind of entanglements that undermined candidates like Dukakis and Kerry. There was no Willie Horton furlough flap. No Kerry moment – “I voted for it before I voted against it.”  And, unlike Al Gore, Obama could articulate traditional Democratic themes without sounding like an over-rehearsed imitation of William Jennings Bryan.

Thoughts? Questions? Recommendations?

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